Rutgers Basketball is ranked for the first time in 40 years, and it’s been a long time coming.
Rutgers Basketball is on track for their first NCAA tournament appearance since the Atlantic 10 days and it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Steve Pikiell is the one leading this turnaround. The former UConn point guard brought his toughness from his playing days everywhere he went from thereon. A player on Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun’s first 4 UConn teams, he quickly learned that the weak don’t survive. Calhoun has been known around coaching circles as being one of the toughest but most loving head coaches in the business and that rubbed off on a young Steve Pikiell.
After one year of learning from his former coach, he made a few coaching stops around New England before ending up at Stony Brook. This small school in New York had just transitioned to the Division 1 level a few years before his arrival and needed some stability. Pikiell provided this and much more for the Seawolves. After a tough first three years, the Jim Calhoun disciple had a team full of his type of players and was ready to take the America East by storm. The next 8 years resulted in seven winning seasons, four regular-season championships, a conference tournament championship, and an overall record of 172-89.
After a 2015-16 season that ended in an NCAA tournament appearance, Steve Pikiell got a call from the Scarlet Knights. His first four seasons with Rutgers have almost been identical to what he did at Stony Brook. It starts with three tough seasons followed by a breakout 4th season once he gets all the players he wants on his roster. This appears to be that breakout season, as the former laughingstock of both the Big East and now Big Ten are now ranked 24th in the latest AP Poll.
Let’s take a look at this 2019-20 Rutgers Scarlet Knights team in more depth and see what makes them so special.